Transportation and Other Activities
How do we increase students’ safety outside the classroom?
With specific health considerations in place to reduce the exposure to and the spread of COVID-19, some non-classroom based activities will merit particular attention from LEAs. Among them, transportation, sports, and band and choir, off-campus school trips, and school dances and large assemblies will require special attention as they involve multiple groups of students.
Recent evidence indicates that in-person instruction can occur safely without minimum physical distancing requirements when other mitigation strategies (e.g., masking) are fully implemented. This is consistent with CDC K-12 School Guidance.
- Face Coverings Are Required on Buses: CDPH Face Coverings Guidance requires that everyone (regardless of vaccination status) use masks on school buses, including on buses operated by public and private school systems. In addition, CDC’s Order requiring the wearing of masks by all people on public transportation conveyances also includes school buses. More information regarding the CDC Requirement for Face Masks on Public Transportation is available on the CDC’s website.
- Provide Extra Face Coverings: Schools should provide masks to those students who need them (including on buses), such as students who forgot to bring their masks or whose families are unable to afford them.
- No Disciplinary Action Because of Face Coverings: No disciplinary action should be taken against a student who does not have a mask as described in the U.S. Department of Education COVID-19 Handbook, Volume 1.
- Transporting Individuals Who Are Sick or Have Symptoms While in School: LEAs should not assume students and staff will be able to provide their own transportation under those circumstances, and thus LEAs may want to plan accordingly.
- Preventing Boarding: LEAs may wish to create a plan to address students who may be prevented from boarding if exposure or symptoms are identified and/or if a student refuses to wear a face covering.
- Ventilation in Transportation: LEAs may want to increase air circulation as much as possible by opening windows and/or roof hatches, but do so only with first consideration of students with other medical concerns (e.g., students with asthma or allergies, who may be assigned seating at the front of the bus with windows up to avoid exposure to environmental irritants).
- Creative Alternatives: Facilitating a “walking school bus,” in which students can join a vetted chaperone to walk to school, may be an option to ease some parents’ anxiety about their children riding a school bus or walking to school alone.
Based on the scientific understanding of the transmission of COVID-19, LEAs may want to consider adapting some activities like band and choir practice to minimize the risk of exposure.
- Playing Musical Instruments Without a Mask: For (1) the playing of musical instruments that cannot be done with a face covering (e.g., wind instruments); or (2) when wearing a mask during play poses a choking hazard, at least one of the following options is required:
- Conduct these activities outdoors
- Use modified face coverings and bell coverings when playing wind and brass instruments, and maintain 6 feet of physical distancing
- Perform at least weekly screening testing with either PCR testing (1:1 or pooled PCR) or antigen testing of all individuals, including those who are fully vaccinated.
- Modified Quarantine and Musical Instruments: When in a modified quarantine, students may participate in all required instructional components of the school day, except activities where a mask cannot be worn, such as while playing certain musical instruments.
- Prefer Outdoor Settings: Whenever possible, schools should prefer carrying out events and activities outdoors.
- Greater Physical Distancing: Schools may choose to increase physical distancing between participants when wind and brass instruments are played.
Sports-related transmission of COVID-19 often occurs off the field of play. This includes during weight training, team meetings, and while commuting with teammates to and from activities. Thus, students are required to wear masks indoors in school settings and on school-based transportation.
- Face Coverings Are Required for Indoor Sports: Masks are required for all persons while playing all indoor sports, unless wearing a mask during play has been determined to pose a choking hazard by a well-recognized health authority, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics. This includes weight rooms, locker rooms, and school buses, even if the sport itself is played outdoors.
- Wet or Sweaty Masks: Any face mask that feels wet or becomes saturated with sweat should be changed immediately.
- Activities Outside of or Not Supervised by Schools: For sports and recreation activities that are not operated or supervised by schools, or do not occur on a school site, the following continue to apply:
- Additional Recommendations to Mitigate Transmission: Additional recommendations to mitigate sports-related transmission of COVID-19 include the following:
- Vaccinate all eligible student-athletes, coaches, and parent/adult volunteers
- Consider screening testing programs
- Hold team meetings outdoors
- Minimize team meals and other activities not related to practice or play
- Wear masks during shared transportation (i.e., carpooling to and from activities)
- Avoid sharing water bottles
- Train in pods (e.g., separate teams into varsity/junior varsity, offense/defense, different track & field events, etc.).
Note that local health jurisdictions may have additional rules and regulations. Additional recommendations are provided by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
- Informing Parents and Guardians: Youth sports programs and schools should consider providing information to parents or guardians regarding the school’s protocols for sports, along with the safety measures that will be in place in these settings with which parents or guardians must comply.
- Hand Hygiene: When equipment is shared during an activity, participants should consider performing hand hygiene (wash hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer) before play and after the conclusion of the activity.
- Grouping by Team:
- One Team at a Time: To reduce risk, athletes and coaches can create stable groups by team and refrain from participating with more than one team during the same season or time period.
- Smaller Training Groups: Larger teams may consider limiting mixing by establishing stable smaller training groups for drills and conditioning.
- Quarantine and Isolation: Please refer to the Quarantine and Isolation section of this Guidebook for more information.
- Stricter Local Rules: Local health departments and school districts may have stricter rules and should be consulted to confirm what is allowed.
- American Academy of Pediatrics’ COVID-19 Interim Guidance: Return to Sports and Physical Activity
- K-12 Schools Guidance 2021-2022 Questions & Answers
If students are participating in a school event or being supervised by school staff, face mask guidance for K-12 settings must be followed regardless of location, even if the location visited does not require fully vaccinated people to wear masks.
School dances, large assemblies, and other school-based crowded events have the potential to cause substantial spread of COVID-19 within and beyond the school community. Schools are encouraged to consult with local health officials before deciding to host such events, particularly in communities where COVID-19 remains highly prevalent and/or vaccination rates remain low.
The following are additional considerations to optimize health and safety for all attendees:
- Host such events outdoors whenever possible.
- Separate the event into smaller cohorts (by grade, for example) whenever possible.
- Ensure all eligible attendees (students and adults) are fully vaccinated. Conduct pre-entry testing for all unvaccinated attendees at or just prior to the event.
- Plan in advance how to identify close contacts if it is later discovered that someone with COVID-19 attended the event. Consider requiring pre-registration with CA Notify and maintaining a log of all attendees (even those arriving pre-event) at the door/entrance to the event.
- Consider requiring the use of masks at the event, even if hosting outdoors.
- If food or drinks are to be served, serve them outdoors whenever possible and/or place them away from other areas to clearly designate spaces where masks must be worn.
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This page was last updated on October 24, 2021.